From April 19, 2008
“Has trouble following directions” was a
comment found on some of my earliest report cards. I blame my overactive
imagination and tendency to daydream more than the my sometimes
contrary nature. When the situation calls for it, I can follow
directions, though I don’t like being told what to do and have a
tendency to dig in my heels in certain situations.
When it comes to
cooking, it is very rare for me to follow recipe directions to a “T.”
If I’m cooking something new, I look up recipes for it in multiple
cookbooks or on the Internet, and then cobble together a recipe of my
own. I’m the kitchen equivalent of a mad scientist testing a new
formula, but instead of a lab coat, I sport an apron. Some experiments
yield success, and others are abject failures.
The only recipes I
don’t fiddle with are ones that I already know produce excellent
results, like the caramel brownies recipe from the mother of my
childhood best friend, or any recipe from my grandmother.
love to cook and try new things, the hustle and bustle of everyday life
doesn’t leave a lot of time to experiment, and the limited counter space
in my kitchen doesn’t give me a lot of room to maneuver.
December, I first tried an Italian Cream Cake made by The Cheesecake
Factory for a warehouse store. The combination of delicate cake and rich
marscapone cheese filling was divine. I sampled the cake again in late
January and was inspired to try to make it on my own.
shelf in the kitchen overflows with books and recipes I’ve snipped out
over the years that I wanted to try. Most have yet to be tested or
tampered with, but I recently came across a recipe for “Lemon Tiramisu
Cake” that looked similar to the Italian Cream Cake. I decided to whip
It was a great opportunity to use my copper mixing bowl, a
birthday gift from my parents after I watched “Good Eats” on the Food
Network. Alton Brown is a fun source for cooking advice, and copper
bowls are supposed to great for beating egg whites. As the daughter of a
former copper mining engineer, I tend to favor anything made of copper.
Following Brown’s advice to use three bowls to separate eggs, I
soon had cracked the six eggs the recipe called for. After allowing the
eggs to come to room temperature, I poured the whites into the copper
bowl with a pinch of salt and a bit of cream of tartar and broke out the
hand mixer. Gradually adding sugar, I soon had a bowl full of glossy
peaks that reminded me of winter snowdrifts in my backyard on a sunny
The yolks, vanilla extract and flour were folded into the
meringue. The recipe also called for lemon extract, but I don’t keep any
in the house, as my inner food snob turns up her nose at artificial
flavors. My spring-form pan, greased and lined with greased wax paper,
was soon filled up with a light and luscious batter.
The cake rose
beautifully, and I soon had it cooling on my wire rack while I worked on
the filling, making it with marscapone cheese and lemon curd. The
recipe also called for whipped cream and ricotta cheese, but I
substituted light cream cheese instead. It also called for a lot more
powdered sugar than I was willing to use.
My parents raised me to
appreciate the natural flavor of things, especially when it comes to
whipped cream. We use sugar sparingly, preferring to taste the cream,
not have it be something so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.
cake was cool, I cut it in half and slathered on the filling. The
remaining lemon curd was used as a glaze for the top of the cake, and
then I dusted the cake with powdered sugar.
The results were
delicious, if not quite right just yet. Next time I’ll obey the recipe
and use cake flour instead of just sifting all-purpose flour, and I’ll
add some lemon zest to the batter. I think I’ll also reduce by half the
number of yolks the recipe calls for. Perhaps instead I can use the
yolks while trying to make lemon curd from scratch.
preference for cake is chocolate, though I have made banana cake and
love my mother’s oatmeal cake. Still, there is something delightful
about this recipe with its cheesecake-like filling. It fits the season,
the perfect cake for spring, light and delicate with a rich, lemony